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Hawthorne Hosts Illinois' First Harness Race with All Black Drivers


Legacy of African-Americans in Horse Racing Rooted in 130 Year History of “Chicago’s Hometown Track”

By: Dakota Schultz


On Saturday, June 19th, Hawthorne Race Course will host the first parimutuel harness race in Illinois history to feature an entire field of Standardbred horses driven exclusively by African-Americans. The initiative to spotlight participation by minorities in the historic sport was championed by the Illinois Harness Horsemen Association and is expected to grow in future years as Hawthorne reinvigorates Illinois horse racing with the addition of casino-style gaming at the track as part of a $400 million redevelopment.  


“Seeing a race full of black drivers steering horses down the homestretch makes it easier for the next generation of horsemen to imagine themselves as integral to the success of this industry,” said Hosea Williams, a Board member of the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association. “When I started racing horses here I was the only black driver, now there are many more of us. This is about representation and visibility and I’m really thankful to Hawthorne and my fellow horsemen for supporting this.”


Though harness horse racing began at Hawthorne in 1970, the legacy of African-American participation at “Chicago’s Hometown Track” began 130 years ago. The 1st African-American to be inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame was Isaac Murphy, who was a Kentucky Derby-winning jockey for Ed Corrigan, the founder of Hawthorne. The last black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby, Jimmy Winkfield, also got his start at Hawthorne in 1897.


The 10-horse race is the 9th race on Hawthorne’s Saturday card (approximate post time 10:15PM) and features five Illinois-bred horses. Drivers participating in the race include: Jamaica Patton, Archie Buford, Herman Wheeler, Jamaal Denson, Jordan Patton, Marcus Turner, Hosea Williams, Cornelius Cavett, Terry Skinner and Freddie Patton Jr..


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